China to Invest $1.1 Billion in Nigeria
Earlier this month Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, joined by a group of state governors and key ministers, visited China with the goal of strengthening ties with this powerful Asian nation. China is one of Nigeria’s largest trading partners, with trade between the two countries expected to reach $10 billion by the end of the year, up from $2 billion in 2005.

But Nigerians were seeking more than a revamped trade agreement from the Chinese. During his visit, President Jonathan emphasized his commitment to leveraging Nigeria’s private sector to drive development, trade, and investment links between the two countries, the investment is key. “We want China to invest more in Nigeria,” stated Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister.

On July 11, during President Jonathan’s visit, China agreed to give Nigeria a $1.1 billion low-interest loan to improve the country’s infrastructure. The money will help build roads and airport terminals in four major cities as well as a light-rail line for Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, with an estimated 37.3 billion barrels of oil reserves. China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer, just behind the United States, and the largest global energy consumer overall, so it comes as no surprise that China would look to the West African country as a way to diversify its sources of much-needed crude oil.

In return for its investment, China can expect more Nigerian oil. As part of its energy security policy, China wishes to wean itself off crude oil from the Middle East. Nigeria is viewed as an additional source to secure the free flow of the hard commodity.

This relationship also holds great potential for Nigeria. With improved infrastructure and rising demand for its crude oil, China’s investment could prove to be the fix Nigeria’s economy has been waiting for.

– Scarlet Shelton
Sources: Bloomberg, International Business Times, BBC
Photo: Earthwise News

As the G8 summit takes place, poverty reduction is going to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  With the final countdown of the Millennium Development Goals looming, everyone is working hard to raise awareness, spread ideas, and figure out new ways to reduce the number of impoverished people in the world.

History is full of individuals like John D. Rockefeller, who eventually turned to philanthropy as a way to fight against the root cause of poverty, and many today are equally aware of the need to fight the core cause of poverty rather than simply fighting the symptoms or outcomes. What they are finding is that good works alone will not eradicate poverty, and organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation are calling for a change. That change is a focus on investment. The goal is to combine philanthropy with profit and urge investors to think in terms of doing well by doing good.

The foundation has called their idea Impact Investing and has doubled its outlay to $2.2 billion in 2011. The concept will be a central idea at the G8 summit.  For a long time, investment was thought to simply be concerned with making a good financial return. Social and environmental goals were accomplished through donations to charities, and perhaps soft loans.  Financial gain did not belong in the world of charitable giving.  But financial growth from investments often bypasses the poor, as is the case in much of the booming India. Financial success has not translated into reducing numbers of malnourished children.

Impact Investing seeks to shift the thinking so that the poor are viewed as potential customers, not victims.  Maintaining ethics and avoiding abuse are key, but the Grameen Bank has helped millions get out of poverty using just such an approach. The bank is able to sustain its achievements by the return on investments it receives.  Growing number of investors are getting involved in Impact Investing, and both JP Morgan and Credit Suisse have estimated investments could reach $1 trillion by the end of decade.

The practice is in its early stages, but investments could just become the most effective poverty reduction method.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: The Telegraph


The founder of the BRAC, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, received the Open Society Prize on Thursday, June 13, a prize given to an outstanding individual whose achievements have contributed substantially to the creation of an open society. Abed’s sentiments on empowering the poor follow the same logic as this statement by him: “we realized that women are the managers of poverty in their households; why not invest in them and make them managers of development.”

Many Americans dislike this idea of sending aid to the world’s poor. Foreign aid conjures up an image of U.S. money, food, and other resources being handed out in other countries like free samples in a supermarket, with the poor and destitute people of the world freeloading on the American taxpayer’s dime.

The reality about foreign aid is that it is an investment for the future of the American economy, and one that will pay large dividends. Nearly all of the United States’ top trading partners were once recipients of foreign aid. Foreign Policy Magazine has described the world’s poor as the largest untapped market on earth, and as the poor rise out of poverty and become consumers, more U.S. jobs are created.

These facts exemplify the power that the poor have in influencing the global marketplace. BRAC, formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, recognizes this potential. BRAC employs the world’s poor to make positive impact in their own communities. A far cry from simply handing out food to the world’s poor, it utilizes communities’ own human and material resources to empower members in a holistic approach towards development. This creates sustainable development solutions that have a positive impact on the world’s poor, as well as the global economy.

This represents the real goals of foreign aid and investment. The U.S. invests in the power of the poor and enables them to become managers of their own development. This turns the world’s poor into consumers that buy U.S. products and contribute to a prospering global economy. As 1 in 5 U.S. jobs are export driven, and 45 percent of U.S. exports go to the developing world, consumption by these members of the developing world is crucial for the U.S. economy.

– Martin Drake

Source: Huffington Post BRAC The Borgen Project
Photo: BRAC

Indian Business Model Can Minimize Food Insecurity in Africa

The US Agency for International Development is attempting to replicate the success of an Indian business in Africa. The effort is part of a three-year program called Africa Lead, which is associated with the US government’s Feed the Future initiative. Africa Lead aims to train Africans in innovate ways to tackle food security issues in their communities. USAID is sending Africans to Fazilka, a border city of Punjab in Northern India, to train with Zamindara Farm Solutions (ZFS). The company attempts to serve as an all-needs agricultural supply company, and its business model is unique and groundbreaking.

ZFS leases farm equipment with trained operators. This allows the owners of smaller farms, which are extremely prevalent in both India and Africa, to avoid taking out loans to make unnecessary investments in expensive equipment. As a banker from Uganda who took part in the training program, Nicholas Abenda, observed, “Owning machines in not mandatory” for smaller farmers in Africa. The company also sells new farm equipment and provides maintenance and parts. It also offers education on the most efficient farming methods and on farm economics. It currently has operations in roughly 500 villages in India.

The ZFS business model has multiple advantages. It allows small farmers to avoid going into debt to purchase expensive equipment. Many farmers who make these types of investments are ultimately unable to repay their loans, and become overwhelmed by debt. The ability to have access to the equipment without going into debt improves farmers’ financial stability. This allows agricultural production to become cheaper, which can increase farmers’ profit margins and decrease the price of food. Additionally, this business model encourages more farmers to use yield-boosting technologies that they otherwise may not have access to. USAID sees this business model as an innovative way to minimize food insecurity in underfed African communities.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: The Hindu, The Times of India, Africa Lead
Photo: The Hindu

Venture philanthropy is a blend of capital and business advice to help entrepreneurial organizations achieve their ambitions for growth and development. They achieve this through three distinct characteristics. The first is an investment-minded approach where an organization supplies multi-year support to ambitious social ventures with tailored financing and sustainability and scalability. Second, they engage in an active partnership by building capacity and infrastructure and bringing non-financial resources to the ventures. And third, it is performance-based through milestones, transparency, social impact, and means of exit strategy.

The Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) is an organization that promotes venture philanthropy across the Asia-Pacific region. The Asian Venture Philanthropy Network is interested in promoting philanthropy through broader philanthropic and social investment communities, with strategies tailored to the needs of the Network’s members. They are based in Singapore and are supported by grant funding, sponsors, and partner organizations. Their backers include organizations and individuals from the finance, business, and social sectors.

The AVPN is taking venture philanthropy and multiplying the impact of financial capital through advisory services and high engagement. The AVPN is a hub for news and events focused on venture philanthropy to develop shared learning and agreed-upon best practices. They are trying to develop active country groups throughout India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and mainland China.

They are working to undertake and develop field-building activities in Asia. The AVPN is modeled off of the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA). The EVPA was originally conceived as a modest and informal association to stimulate productive discussion, capture good practice, and encourage new philanthropic funds. The AVPN’s vision for Asia is a philanthropy landscape that responds to the resource needs of high-potential social purpose organizations. They encourage and facilitate the development of venture philanthropy and social enterprise across the Asia-Pacific region.

– Caitlin Zusy
Source: AVPN

6 Qualities of Social Entrepreneurs

The term “social entrepreneur” is used widely in both the business context and that of social volunteering, and for this reason it can be difficult to pin down a distinct definition of “social entrepreneurship.” Some entities like The Skoll Foundation aim to invest in social entrepreneurs, which they define as “society’s change agents: creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better.”

So what makes a social entrepreneur? Can it be taught? The Said Business School – an entrepreneurial business school launched in 2003 – clearly believes so. Even so, there are a few qualities that social entrepreneurs share, according to International Journal of Public Sector Management contributor John L. Thompson.

  1. Social entrepreneurs find gaps where needs are not being met. Where business entrepreneurs see an untapped market, social entrepreneurs see an unmet social need. Many social entrepreneurs have a personal stake or experience with this need; Oprah Winfrey, for example, has often cited her childhood years in rural poverty as a key motivation for her many charitable projects.
  2. Social entrepreneurs address this need with creativity and imagination. The way things have always been done is not enough anymore for social entrepreneurs: why else would there be the need in the first place? Social entrepreneur Jane Chen was pursuing an M.B.A. at Stanford when she teamed up with a graduate student class at Stanford to develop an infant warmer that helps stabilize a newborn’s body temperature; the infant warmer only needs 30 minutes of charge to maintain warmth for over 4 hours.
  3. Social entrepreneurs build networks by recruiting other people to the cause. These networks are often irresistibly contagious and use a combination of brilliant marketing and engaging every consumer. People who buy TOMS don’t just buy a pair of shoes, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie says, “They’re kind of joining a movement. And they want to participate in that…. That’s the best type of marketing you can have.”
  4. Social entrepreneurs are able to successfully secure the resources they need. The Borgen Project founder Clint Borgen worked on a fishing vessel to secure start-up capital; TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie sold his online drivers’ education software company. Social entrepreneurs have enough savvy to locate what they need to begin their ventures, whether this comes in the form of “cashing in” what assets they do have, receiving generous seed money, or working extra jobs and long hours.
  5. Social entrepreneurs overcome obstacles that their specific need presents. Leticia Casanueva, founder and executive director of Crea — a nonprofit social enterprise offering business development services to women seeking to start their own business ventures in Mexico — writes that Crea itself had a number of challenges in starting, the chief of which being “the inflexibility of laws that inhibit innovation and investment in social enterprises.” The way Crea was able to overcome this was, in short, to “have a board full of lawyers” to work out every legal nuance. Every enterprise has a context, and the successful social entrepreneur learns to navigate it.
  6. Social entrepreneurs introduce systems to make the venture sustainable and accountable. While many social enterprises shy away from the reputation of being “for-profit,” most agree that the best answer to global poverty is the development of the target market’s economy. Jordan Kassalow, for example, partnered an eyeglasses-donation drive with the development of a network of in-country distributors operating similarly to the Mary-Kay consultant model. VisionSpring utilizes a “high volume, low margin” approach that also offers higher margin products (custom frames, etc.) for higher-spending customers in-country all while providing vision-related services.

On the whole, social entrepreneurs operate very similarly to business entrepreneurs; they must be connected to a specific need, savvy with securing capital, be able to address challenges, and design a system that is able to sustain itself. What Thompson says is the difference, however, “is a strong commitment to help others in some way.”

– Naomi Doraisamy

Sources: The Skoll Foundation, International Journal of Public Sector Management, CNN, Forbes VisionSpring The
Photo: Tree Hugger

Is Africa the Future of Tech?

The first thing that many people think when Africa is mentioned is what we see on television: war, drought, malnutrition, and extreme poverty. But what if it was possible for Africa to become the next big tech hub?

Africa as a continent has come to the forefront and has become the site for many global investments. Global businesses have kickstarted this growth, structural change, and optimism by investing in the area, and some of these investments have been going to cutting-edge communications and other improvements. This allows a faster transfer of knowledge across the continent and for research work, such as vaccine trials for malaria, to take place in Africa itself.

More cutting-edge research will be taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, where IBM has opened its first lab in Africa. Markets in Africa are beginning to be targeted as well, as Microsoft and Huawei have launched a smartphone engineered specifically for the African market. This targeting by large companies opens Africa up to more opportunities for local research and innovation. Agencies from countries like Brazil are playing a role in establishing agricultural security in Africa as well. Offices set up by Brazil’s Embrapa could lead to more local research in agriculture.

If after a decade of continued growth, the most developed countries in Africa accelerate into new research and technological opportunities, it could be quite possible that the continent as a whole could become a new hub for technological advancement in the future.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: Forum Blog
Photo: Open University

Grow Africa: Accelerating Investments for Sustainable Growth
Grow Africa is a partnership platform that seeks to accelerate investments and transformative change in African agriculture based on national agricultural priorities and in support of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme, also known as CAADP. CAADP is a program of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, which was established by the African Union in 2003. The end goal of the program is to create sustainable growth in each country.

Grow Africa has several concrete goals they are striving to achieve. The first is to increase private sector investments in African agriculture through investment blueprints,  strengthening cross-sector collaboration, and building a pipeline of investments. The second is to enable stakeholder partnerships by developing partnerships to attract investment in initiatives that complement national agriculture sector strategies. And the third is to expand knowledge and awareness of the best practices and existing initiatives. They are working to strengthen investor interest in agriculture by building increased trust and shared commitment.

Six core elements guide Grow Africa’s initiatives. The first is leadership and alignment by public leaders and policy shapers as well as a platform for active co-creation by the private and public sector and civil society members. Second is strategy and priorities defined by what is best for each country and what coincides with the country’s national strategy. The third is investment and entrepreneurship pipeline through bankable investment opportunities, and engagement of groups and organizations to participate in opportunities. Fourth is finance and risk management including risk reduction mechanisms to catalyze investment. Fifth are improvements to hard and soft infrastructure, policy and regulations and human institutional capacity. And finally, there is an additional focus on designing, managing and monitoring the hard and soft infrastructure projects in place.

An example of one of Grow Africa’s initiatives is the Rwanda food basket initiative. Rwanda is working to become a destination for agri-business investment. Rwanda is creating opportunities in the form of a food basket approach that is based on priority commodity value-chains located in highly specific geographic areas. This initiative is directly correlated with Rwanda’s agricultural development strategy, which is aimed at tackling poverty and improving food security. This project enables the environment and infrastructure developed by the government. It is designed to directly access key growth markets for Rwandan produce.

The second example of a Grow Africa initiative is Ethiopia’s agricultural growth project. Ethiopia is working towards transforming its agriculture into a sustainable market-led sector, which would lead to improved food security, environmental conservation, gender inclusion and equity, and contribute to improved middle-income status by 2020. The program is coordinated and implemented by the Agricultural Transformation Agency. They are charged with creating an enabling environment, improving industry structure, and engaging the private sector, as well as increasing productivity of smallholder farms, improving frontline extension quality and scaling irrigation and better land management.

Grow Africa works as a part of the African Union. The program currently has initiatives in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

– Caitlin Zusy
Source: Grow Africa
Photo: UN


May 1, 2013 was the kick-off of the two-day Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai.  Africa, a continent on the move, has been showing promising signs of economic growth and development.  The Africa Global Business Forum is just one more step in the right direction for a continent on the move.

The Africa Global Business Forum, as announced by the UAE Prime Minister, is set to become an annual event.  The forum brings together leaders from Africa and the UAE to promote business investment, development, and collaboration between the nations of Africa and Dubai.  More than 3,500 delegates are in attendance.  The Prime Minister of Uganda gave the keynote address and stressed the importance of the forum as a signal of the interest in African business and investment opportunities.  He also discussed the importance of the private and public sectors working together as has been done in Dubai.

Dubai serves as a center of 150 different shipping lines and could be a very key logistics hub for Africa to export goods.  The young population and growing middle class in Africa are indicators of the potential for increased growth within Africa. Consumer spending is set to hit US $1.4 trillion by 2020. The forum will seek to strengthen alliances between Africa and outside investors with the goal of reducing poverty in Africa and increasing economic growth and self-sufficiency.

Other topics of note at the forum are looking at boosting Africa’s trade through the role of free trade areas and private equity.  Already major telecom companies are looking to invest in Africa and the prospects for future growth and development are exciting.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: CPI Financial

In the wake of President Obama’s 2014 foreign aid budget announcement, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), along with twenty other members of Congress, spoke out on behalf for continuing foreign aid to several Middle Eastern countries. Their proposal included sending monetary aid to Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javajhj, and Christian American refugee camps in the Middle East.

These congressmen sent a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations requesting an aid budget for Armenia and the other previously mentioned countries. Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) drafted the letter together and hope that the bipartisan group can persuade the subcommittee to carry out their requests.

The letter asked that Congress approve a foreign aid budget that would provide:

– $5 million in U.S. humanitarian and developmental aid to Nagorno-Karabagh.

– At least 10% of U.S. assistance to Georgia to be earmarked for job creation programs in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of that country.

– At least $50 million in U.S. economic aid to Armenia.

– Funds for humanitarian and resettlement assistance specifically targeted to Armenian and other Christian populations as well as other minority communities affected by the recent unrest in the Middle East.

– Language strengthening Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan.

– Removal of barriers to contact and communication with representatives of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic.

–Language calling for the participation of Karabagh leaders in the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations.

Congressmen Pallone and Grimm are concerned that Obama’s plan to give $24,719,000 in Economic Support Funds for Armenia will not be sufficient funds to fully aid the country. This budget is significantly less than last year’s $40 million budget. The Armenian government has requested $50 million in aid for 2014, an amount that is unlikely to be granted. Advocates of Armenian and Middle Eastern foreign aid are working diligently to ensure that funds for this region are increased before Congress passes the 2014 foreign aid budget.

– Mary Penn

Source: Armenian Weekly
Photo: Guardian